How to use and manage multiple monitors on Windows 11

How to use and manage multiple monitors on Windows 11

Did you just buy a new monitor and are wondering how to plug it in and use and manage that monitor in Windows 11? Perhaps even for photo or video editing? Well, it’s actually a very easy process!

When set up properly, using multiple monitors can help boost your productivity. You’ll end up having more room for your open content on Windows 11. Similar to how things worked in past versions of Windows, all you have to do to get started with managing multiple monitors in Windows 11 is visit a few settings menus after plugging the display into your PC. We’ll guide you through the process in this tutorial.

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What you’ll need

A computer monitor– Naturally, you’ll need to have a computer monitor or multiple computer monitors for this guide.

An HDMI, USB-C, Display Port, VGA, or another type of cable- To connect your primary monitor to your Windows 11 system, you’ll need to use a compatible cable. Most modern monitors feature HDMI or DisplayPort. Newer monitors will use USB-C, and more older monitors might use Mini DisplayPort. Consult the guides included in your monitor’s box for more information on which type of cable is needed and how to plug it into your Windows 11 system.

For using more than one monitor at the same time in addition to your laptop or primary screen (this is a case where you’re not just using one monitor) we have some notes. If your PC only has one output port, you might need a DisplayPort cable to plug in between the two different displays. This is granted that it supports daisy chaining technology.

In the case of laptops you can also use a compatible dock that lets you plug in multiple monitors at the same time, without the need for daisy chains or multiple cables. Check with your monitor maker for more information on that.

If your PC has multiple output ports, then you won’t need to worry about daisy changing or docks. Just plug both monitors directly to your system!

(Optional) A required dongle or adapter– Generally speaking, if your PC doesn’t have the required port for the above-mentioned cable. then you’ll need to invest in an adapter or dongle to plug it into your PC. Chances are, your Windows 11 system might not have the port anyway, as most computers only use USB-C. Our guide has some sample dongles and adapters you might want to buy.

Access to Windows 11 settings app– We’ll be diving deep into Windows 11’s settings for this tutorial. Make sure you can get into the app without issue.

Step 1: Plug your monitor into your PC & turn it on

A dongle with a laptop

Before actually managing monitors, you’ll need to plug the monitor into your PC. As we mentioned above, you can do this by following the instructions included in the box that contains your monitor. We do have some extra notes if you’re using more than one monitor, though, but more on that later.

With one monitor, connecting your monitor to a PC is usually a simple task. Plug one end of the HDMI, USB-C, or another type cable that you’re using into the monitor. Then, find the respected port for that cable on your computer, and plug it in. If you’re using a dongle or adapter, then you’ll have to plug the monitor’s cable into that adapter first, and then into your PC.

Now, if you’re using two or more monitors at the same time, there might be an additional step that’s needed. This sounds confusing, but don’t worry. There are two scenarios here.

If your PC or laptop only has one of the above ports that we mentioned at the top of the guide, for connecting to your monitor, you’ll need an additional adapter or dock to connect those two or more monitors properly. Usually, Thunderbolt or USB-C docks can do the trick.

Alternatively, in this scenario, you also connect your two monitors together via DisplayPort and then plug one monitor into your PC’s output port. This is if your monitor supports it.

But if your PC or PC tower does indeed have multiple output ports, then you can use two cables without a daisy chain. In this case, plug each monitor into your PC as usual into each port with two separate cables and you’ll be good to go.

Next, turn on the monitor or monitors and check to make sure you’re getting an image. If not, try reconnecting the cables again. Typically, you might see Windows mirror the screen of your primary display or laptop display on the monitor for the first time. Don’t worry if you see that. The next steps will cover more on how to change.

Step 2: Head into the Windows Settings to change the view, arrange, and manage your monitors

To start with managing monitors in Windows 11, hit the Windows Key and buttons on your keyboard. This will open up the Windows 11 settings app. From there, you’ll want to click on the first option, for Display. Again, if you’re seeing your screen mirrored on all displays at this moment, don’t worry.

Follow these steps below to change things up, if you don’t want to see the displays mirrored. These steps will also let you rearrange the monitors to match your setup as you see fit.

  1. From Display in the settings app, click the Identify button to identify your displays.
  2. On each of the labeled boxes for your monitor (1, 2, or 3,) click on each one and drag it to represent your actual setup and positioning of the monitors on your desk.
  3. Click the button that you next to Identify and change it as you see fit. You can either duplicate, extend, or show an image on which monitor you choose.

Once you’ve finished those steps, you’re past the basics for managing displays. You can now dive a bit deeper into monitor arrangement.

Step 3: Tweak your multiple monitor settings & detecting more displays

Windows 11 brings some tweaks that let you make a monitor your primary display, and remember window locations. You can see these options by clicking the Multiple displays option under Display settings. Here’s a little more on how to manage this.

  1. To make a monitor your main display, click on its number in the section above the Multiple Displays and make sure it is selected. Then check the make this my main display box.
  2. You can have Windows 11 remember the windows you had open by clicking the remember window locations based on monitor connection button. When you plug and unplug your monitor, Windows will bring back the content you had on your external displays.
  3. Clicking minimize windows when a monitor is disconnected will help keep your desktop clean, so you don’t have a ton of open windows when you disconnect your monitors.

Windows 11 will show you a Detect another display button, if you want to connect to more displays. You also can connect to a wireless display from this menu, too.

Step 4: Change your scaling, resolution, color profiles, and HDR settings on a monitor

If you purchased a monitor that has a high resolution or refresh rate, you’ll need to manage this via Windows 11’s settings. It is all on the same Display page in the settings app. You can change the scaling and resolution independently on each monitor, too. Here’s how.

  1. To change brightness, and color profiles, scroll down under the Brightness & color option. Depending on your monitor, these settings might not be available.
  2. If your monitor supports HDR, click the HDR option, and follow the instructions on your screen. Windows will play a sample video to showcase how HDR would look.
  3. To change the scale, scroll down to Scale & layout and pick an option other than the default value. From there, click each of the categories. A smaller scale means smaller text on the screen, and a bigger scale means bigger text.
  4. As for resolution, pick Display resolution and make sure you choose the highest possible option. This will help you make the most out of your monitor.

Step 5: Change your refresh rates

The last step in managing monitors in Windows 11 is a bit more advanced. Most monitors and laptops now have higher refresh rates. You can tweak this by going to the Advanced Display section of Windows 11’s display settings.

  1. Scroll down, and click on Advanced Display
  2. Choose your respected monitor from the list
  3. At the bottom of the settings app, go to choose a refresh rate and pick the option you want.

Conclusion

As you can tell, once you plug your display into your Windows 11 PC, tweaking the settings to have it work the way you want is quite easy. Microsoft puts a lot of these settings front and center, and it doesn’t take much clicking. We hope you found our guide helpful, but if you have questions, do let us know below in the comments.

About author

Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus

I have over six years of experience covering Microsoft, Surface, Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS news and rumors for sites like Digital Trends and OnMSFT. I also write laptop reviews and how-to guides. I am a Microsoft fan and I have a drawer full of PCs and other devices. You can follow and interact with me on Twitter if you want to chat!

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